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Bruce Black searches for words and stories on Florida's west coast, only a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico.** A writer, editor of children's books, and writing instructor, his stories for children have appeared in Cricket and Cobblestone magazines.** You can contact him at wordswimmer@hotmail.com.
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1. Keep the Pen Moving

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2. Fishing (For Words)

There’s a lake about two miles away from our house, and, after sitting at my desk all day, I felt the need to stretch my legs. So, I put a notebook and a few pens into a shoulder bag and went for a ramble, as they say in the UK. At the lake a small dock, maybe 20’ x 15’, with two wooden benches and railing, overlooks the water. I had in mind to sit a while on one of the benches,

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3. One Writer’s Process: Jeannine Atkins

The woods in Sterling, Massachusetts, where Jeannine Atkins grew up, stimulated her curiosity in many ways. She wondered about the things that might be hidden under rocks, and years later such wondering led her to write Girls Who Look Under Rocks, a book about girls like Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, and others who became naturalists as adults. Wandering near the woods gave her child’s

0 Comments on One Writer’s Process: Jeannine Atkins as of 11/8/2015 8:56:00 AM
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4. When Autumn Comes

When autumn comes, nature begins to slow down, and my brain wants to go into a deep sleep. It’s the time of year when some of us come up against a wall and can’t see beyond it. Where does the wall come from? Why does it appear? How do we deal with it until it vanishes? Maybe we should just go into hibernation and wait for it to fall down on its own. Writing—or trying to write—on

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5. One Writer’s Process: Fran Manushkin

Before becoming a writer, Fran Manushkin had the idea that books came to life inside an author’s head fully made and that an author simply wrote them down “lickety split.” But then she started writing and discovered that notion simply wasn’t true. "Books develop according to their own time,” she says. “You cannot dictate that a book be born; neither can you dictate to a book. Listen.

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6. On Writing: John LeCarre

The other day I picked up John LeCarre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, his best-selling novel about spies and espionage during the Cold War, and started reading the introduction that he'd written in 1991 for the book, which first appeared in the United States in 1974. Two things struck me about what LeCarre had to say in retrospect about writing the book, the first in a trilogy. He had

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7. How’s the Water?

The heat in Florida is unrelenting at the this time of year, pressing down over everything like a steamy blanket and making the air so thick and humid that it feels like you’re trapped inside a never-ending steam bath. It’s not only the air that warms up but the water, too. Instead of water temperatures in the 60's or 70's, like off the mid-Atlantic coast at this time of year, the

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8. The Only Thing That Matters

I sent off another story yesterday. Now I’m wondering if I sent it to the right place. It’s how the self-doubt starts. In a few weeks, if I don’t receive a response, the question will shift in a subtle way. It will become something very different. It will turn into “Was it ready to send out?" And then “Did I need to do more work on it?” And all of a sudden, like a trap door dropping

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9. Ready. Set. Go!

Twenty minutes each morning—whether I’m ready to write or not, whether I’m sleepy or awake, whether my back aches or my fingers hurt—I write. Fast. Nonstop. For twenty minutes. It’s like digging fast. Just digging. Taking a shovel. Putting it into the earth. Lifting soil. Repeat. Again and again. Twenty minutes. Each day. There’s something about getting the hand in motion, about the

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10. Coming Up Empty-Handed

It took all day to write something that I didn’t even know I wanted to write. I sat at my desk for hours trying to think of something to write and at the end of the morning I left an unmarked sheet of paper on my desk, the same blank sheet that I'd started with when I sat down earlier. It was like diving and returning to the surface empty-handed. I hadn’t found any pearls on the sea

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11. Swimming in the Dark

For years I’ve held an image in my head of a plant growing toward the light as a way of understanding the writing process. It was an image that a beloved writing teacher shared with me years ago, and the image of my work growing toward the light--drawn to the light--helped me through some dark passages in my life as I tried to sort out which direction to follow in terms of what I wanted to

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12. Two steps forward, one step back

Sometimes writing can feel as if I’m making headway one day, only to find myself retreating the next. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s as if I’m swimming effortlessly through the water and then unexpectedly hit a strong current, and everything changes. My pace slows, my arms feel fatigued, my legs weaken, and I fear sinking to the bottom. And then, just as suddenly, the

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13. Follow Your Bliss

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14. Second-Guessing Yourself (or How Can You Really Trust Your Intuition?)

After thinking about a story for years and trying to write it for more years than I care to count, I had a break through a few months ago and managed to get the words of the story down on paper. Every afternoon I sat down to type out the next chapter, and the next, and received a gift, a miracle, of sorts, as page after page began to appear on the screen.  Over the course of a few months

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15. Early Morning Reflections

Excerpts from a recent journal entry: Up early -- 5:45 am. Still groggy from sleep. Yesterday I started typing the historical fiction novel that I've spent the past month writing by hand. Just typing, no edits. Re-reading the story. That's all. As I write this morning, I ask what's the purpose of this journal keeping? Is it a record of what I do? A kind of superficial summary of my life--did

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16. Empty Mind

"Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it."--Dee Hock "Once you are empty then there is no barrier for the divine to enter in you." - Osho It may sound like a contradiction to try to empty your mind when you write. After all, if your mind is “empty,” how can you possibly find the words and images you need to set down on paper? But I’d like to

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17. Writing Happens Like This

Writing happens like this: You never know what will appear when you sit down to write. You only know you are a little scared that nothing will happen—no words, no ideas, no thoughts will come—and you'll be left staring at a blank page. So, you sit and wait for something that isn’t yet on the page. And when you find the courage to take that leap of faith and start writing, words do

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18. The Write Stuff

There’s this belief among writers that hidden inside us is all the stuff we need to write. Maybe we're born with this stuff, or maybe we get it from our teachers or parents, or by reading the work of other writers, but we have it and only have to dig deep enough to find it. Of course, we still need to learn how to write. We still need to read lots of books and write lots of words. 

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19. Where’s the tension?

Without tension, it’s almost impossible to hold a reader’s attention and keep her turning the pages of your story. And yet many of us, despite knowing this (that tension is a key ingredient in sustaining a reader’s attention), produce stories that lack tension. Why is it, I wonder, that it’s so hard to create a story with tension? Tension, as a noun, is defined as “the state of being

0 Comments on Where’s the tension? as of 10/5/2014 9:13:00 AM
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20. Each Story Begins With a Choice

Every time we sit down to write, we must make a choice. Do we play it safe or do we take a risk? Do we create a story that lets us feel safe and grounded, a story that removes danger (and threats of danger) from our world? Or do we create a story that forces us to climb a high wire and take risks, to reach into the dark box of our hidden (and not-so-hidden) fears and confront them?

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21. Inside, Outside

In order to write, I need to go inside. Not literally inside a room or a building but inside myself. I spend weeks, months, and often years on a project learning how to do this, how to get past my outer self and step into the inner imaginary world that I'm trying to create. It doesn't happen automatically. Even after years of writing, this process takes time and thought, and the

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22. Savor the Light

It’s that time of year when the light changes.  Even in Florida, where writers are accustomed to the sun shining brightly all year long, the days are growing shorter. Over the next few months, we'll watch as the light turns from highly burnished gold to a subtle shade of bronze, and we'll gaze in wonder as this honey-colored light seems to melt from the sky. In the weeks ahead, as

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23. Cultivate Patience

Writing’s not a career for the faint-hearted or those seeking instant gratification. So much of a writer’s life is spent waiting—waiting for words to come, stories to appear, the next critique group to meet, the response to a manuscript or contract from an editor or agent. Waiting can transform your writing life into a daunting succession of days filled with agony, self-doubt, and

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24. Beacon of Light, 2014

Most likely you’ve near heard of the writer who I’ve selected as the Beacon of Light for 2014, but he has served as my inspiration this past year, illuminating the shoals of self-doubt and guiding me past the fears and uncertainties that often accompany the writing process. The writer’s name is Chuck Entwistle, a friend of mine from our days as grad students in the MFA program at Vermont

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25. Go, Write!

In the beginning, the page is blank--just blue lines and white spaces. It’s like looking into a mirror. The page serves as the release mechanism, the trigger, the catalyst for thought. But thought itself doesn’t take place on the page. You may look at the lines and the spaces between the lines, but what you see is the image in your head, the image that is not yet on the page. A

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